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The hard truth of the matter is that pretty much anything and everything we do to our hair—color it, brush it, style it—takes a toll. And of all the many factors that contribute to hair damage, heat styling, and the frustrating dullness and dehydration that can result, just maybe one of the worst. The good news? It’s also super easy to prevent this type of damage. No, you don’t need to give up your beloved hair dryer or curling iron.
All you have to do is make sure you prep your hair with a good heat protectant. Many of the most effective ones will not only keep flyaways to a minimum but add moisture and help fortify hair against frequent heat styling. Think of these as sunscreen for your hair—an essential protective step to ensure your hair stays soft, strong, and healthy. “Heat protectants act as a protective barrier between your hair and a hot tool, protecting it from burning, drying out, and becoming dull. A heat protectant will help smooth the cuticle and leave hair looking shiny and healthy,” explains Chicago-based celebrity hairstylist Alex Brown.
Meet the Expert
Alex Brown is a celebrity hairstylist and Chicago-based salon owner, who also divides her time between NYC and LA. A former assistant to Jen Atkin, Alex has styled hair across the world, and her celebrity work includes Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Bella Hadid, and Olivia Culpo.
Now that we’ve convinced you of their importance, read on for the best heat protectants below.
Best Overall: Living Proof Restore Instant Protection Spray
Provides UV protection
In an aerosol can
We love the heat protection this lightweight spritz delivers, but we also love its versatility. It can go on wet or dry hair (the ideal option when you want to use your straightener for a quick touch-up on second-day hair)—plus, it even works as a UV protectant, too. Also nice: It delivers mirror-like shine, no matter which way you use it.
Active Ingredient: Octafluoropentyl methacrylate (OFPMA) | Hair Type: All | Size: 5.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"After using this product, there was an instantaneous shift in how healthy and shiny my hair looked." — Ashley Rubell, Product Tester
Best Budget: Odele Leave-In Detangling Tonic
Light, naturally-derived fragrance
Nozzle can be hard to spray
This is the hero SKU from one of team Byrdie’s fave haircare brands to launch as of late. TBH, we didn’t realize that it even protected against heat until we read the fine print, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn it does. Plus, it guards not only against heat but also damage from environmental factors, and, per the name, works miracles when it comes to untangling even super stubborn snarls. And the price/value you’re getting can’t be beaten.
Active Ingredient: Amino acids, plant proteins | Hair Type: All | Size: 8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: Pantene Pro-V Nutrient Boost Heat Primer Thermal Heat Protection
Mist could be finer
Maybe you use hot tools daily and go through protective products like water, or maybe you just don’t like to spend big bucks on your haircare routine. Either way, this drugstore staple is a great choice. Mist it all over pre-styling and let the protective polymers in the formula do their thing, protecting hair from temps up to 450 degrees.
Active Ingredient: Vp/methacrylamide/vinyl imidazole copolymer | Hair Type: Fine, thin | Size: 6.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Hair: Oribe Balm D’Or Heat Styling Shield
Has UV protection
Not only does this option protect hair from up to 450 degrees, but it also helps control frizz and add back moisture to dry hair, says Shelly Aguirre, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She also lauds it for containing good-for-your-hair ingredients (biotin, maracuja oil), but also working well either on its own or layered with other products.
Active Ingredient: Biotin, maracuja oil | Hair Type: All | Size: 3.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Thick Hair: Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer
Provides UV protection
May weigh down finer hair
As the name suggests, this product is packed with rich oils (coconut, argan, and macadamia, to name a few) to hydrate and soften super thick or coarse hair. It also works well to tamp down frizz and guards against both heat and UV damage, all without leaving behind any kind of unwanted residue.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, grape seed oil, sweet almond oil, macadamia integrifolia seed oil, coconut oil | Hair Type: Straight to curly | Size: 8.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"I’d consider Bumble and Bumble's Invisible Oil a hero product for fine, dry, and frizzy hair like mine. It’s surprisingly moisturizing given its lightweight, absorbent texture, and it will not weigh your hair down." — Kelsey Clark, Product Tester
Best for Fine Hair: Kerastase Résistance Ciment Thermique Blow Dry Primer
Promotes healthy hair
“This cream-based heat protectant is a must when styling finer or damaged hair,” says Aguirre. “The pro-keratin complex, a blend of protein and amino acids, helps promote healthy hair,” she says. (And FYI, fine hair is more susceptible to damage, both heat-induced and other types, than thicker hair.) And even though it’s a cream, it won’t weigh down your hair.
Active Ingredient: Pro-keratine complex, ceramides | Hair Type: All, especially good for fine hair | Size: 5.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Relaxed Hair: Moroccanoil Perfect Defense Heat Protectant
In an aerosol can
Although rich argan oil is the key ingredient here, this aerosol spray is surprisingly dry and weightless, which makes it a great pick for relaxed hair. It contains conditioning panthenol, too, and boasts a lovely signature scent that’s so good it'll make you reach for the product daily.
Active Ingredients: Argan oil, octylacrylamide/acrylates/butylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer | Hair Type: All | Size: 6 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Curly Hair: Mielle Organics Mongongo Oil Thermal & Heat Protectant Spray
Can leave behind a residue
No matter whether you’re blow-drying and straightening your naturally curly texture or are using an iron to add definition to your curls, heat protectants are especially important for those with curly hair. Enter this pick, which relies on a combo of organic oils to shield hair from heat, add shine, and smooth out frizz.
Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, sacha inchi oil, argan oil, mongongo oil | Hair Type: All | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Colored Hair: Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Leave-In Spray
Water is hair color’s worst enemy, but heat is a close second. (Not to mention that the more heat-damaged your hair is, the less it'll be able to absorb color evenly.) This spritz packs a whopping 21 benefits, including, of course, color preservation and heat protection, and works great for all hair types and textures.
Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, camelina oil, olive oil | Hair Type: All | Size: 13.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Damaged Hair: Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil
Repairs broken bonds in hair
Heat protectants are a must for preventing future hair stress, but if the damage has already been done and your hair is in need of some extra TLC, reach for this reparative and heat-protecting oil. Like all of the Olaplex products (which Byrdie editors rave about, BTW), it works by targeting and repairing the broken protein bonds in the hair. In short, hair is left smoother, softer, shinier, stronger, and with a more vibrant color.
Active Ingredients: Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, grape seed oil | Hair Type: All | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
“The product excels at taming flyaways, whether you're leaving your hair down or styling it in a slicked-back ponytail.” — Melony Forcier, Product Tester
Best for Blow-Outs: Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray
Aguirre also loves this option from Oribe, calling it a “game-changer,” especially for unruly hair. It protects from heat damage and helps you create an incredible-looking blowout at the same time, even if you’re blowing out curly hair, she says.
Active Ingredient: Rosehip fruit oil, avocado oil, argan oil | Hair Type: All, except fine | Size: 5.9 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Multi-Tasking: LolaVie Glossing Detangler
Light, naturally-derived scent
There’s arguably no celebrity whose name is more synonymous with ‘good hair’ than Jennifer Aniston. It’s part of the reason why we jumped at the chance to try Jen's newly-launched haircare line, including this hero product. It’s an ideal choice for those who like to score multiple benefits from one product; it acts as a shine enhancer, smoothing detangler, styling primer, and heat protectant, all in one. The formula is 99% naturally derived (the heat protection comes from a vegan thermal shield) and touts a subtle citrus scent and super chic packaging, too.
Active Ingredient: Vegetable ceramides, glycerin | Hair Type: All | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
The Living Proof Restore Instant Protection is one of our favorite multi-tasking styling products in general, and indeed, offering exceptional heat protection is just one of the many benefits it offers. (Plus, it can go on dry hair, making it ideal for second-day heat styling.) As far as drugstore options go, the Pantene Pro-V Nutrient Boost Heat Primer Thermal Heat Protection (view at Walmart) is a stand-out wallet-friendly pick, boasting the same level of protection (up to 450 degrees) as many of its pricier counterparts. A heat protectant is an absolute non-negotiable if you have damaged hair; try the Olaplex No7 Bonding Oil. And if you’re all about a daily blowout, consider the Oribe Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray (view at Sephora) which both imparts heat protection and also smooths out even super curly hair.
What to Look for in a Heat Protectant
While they’re more often thought of as a skincare ingredient, humectants—hydrating ingredients that attract moisture—can be super beneficial in hair care and are especially good to look for in a heat protectant, says Brown. After all, more moisturized hair equals healthier hair. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are two good ones to look for.
According to Brown, it’s also a good idea to look for strengthening ingredients in a heat protectant—they're an added layer of defense against any heat-induced damage. Things such as amino acids, keratin, and wheat protein are all good options.
How should you use a heat protectant?
John Pulitano, a hairstylist and creative director of Headcase Hair, recommends using heat protectants as the first step of your hair care routine post-wash. “Spray liberally onto damp hair before using any other styling products, such as volumizer or smoothing lotions, and then continue with your styling routine,” he says.
Using one on dry hair? “Be sure to apply it thoroughly, as well,” he says. “I like to hold the product about 30 centimeters [about a foot] away, so I can get a nice even coating but no stickiness.”
How important is using a heat protectant?
If you’ll be doing any sort of heat styling, whether blow drying or using hot tools, Pulitano considers heat protectants to be an essential step in your routine—“especially for colored and damaged hair types. But really, every single person should be using one.” He recommends reaching for products that are lightweight and won’t leave a sticky residue in your hair.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she doesn’t blow-dry her hair often, she always, always, always uses a heat protectant anytime she does so (with both fine and lightened hair, the last thing she wants is more damage). You can always find the Odele detangling spray in her bathroom cabinet.
Meet the Expert
- Shelly Aguirre is a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She specializes in precision cuts as well as extensions and is known for helping teach her clients about the best ways to embrace and style their own hair texture.
- John Pulitano is a hairstylist and the co-owner and creative director of Headcase Hair, a salon in Sydney, Australia. He’s been working in the fashion space for over a decade, and you can find his work in various magazine editorials, advertorials, and on the runways of all the international Fashion Weeks.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough heat protectants from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.